A preliminary investigation against Abbas Bagwan, the main accused in the Sangli multiple murder case, has revealed that he had been taking steadily increasing amounts of money from the victims over a period of two years, making more and more fantastical promises each time.
Bagwan and his driver Dheeraj Survase were booked for allegedly poisoning nine members of the Vhanmore family from the Mhaisal village in Miraj and trying to pass off the murders as suicides. Survase was arrested on Monday evening, while Bagwan was admitted to the Miraj Civil Hospital after he complained of chest pains.
"Bagwan was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday evening and we have placed him under arrest. He will be produced in court on Thursday," said Superintendent of Police Dikshit Gedam, Sangli police.
According to investigations so far, Bagwan was a self-styled miracle worker and had promoted himself a lot through word-of-mouth publicity in Mhaisal and nearby villages. Through this same method, he slowly but surely convinced the Vhanmores to 'engage his services' which would 'solve all their financial woes.' Officers said that Bagwan preyed on the human ambition for making easy money, coupled with an inclination towards blind faith and superstition packaged in the name of religion.
"Bagwan and the Vhanmores first got to know each other around four to five years ago. Over repeated interactions and meetings, Bagwan kept telling them that he had solved the problems of many people in the village and assured them that he could do the same for them as well. After sustained brainwashing, the Vhanmores finally decided to give him a chance," said Inspector General of Police Manoj Kumar Lohiya, Kolhapur range.
Investigating officers said that Bagwan started small, taking a few hundred rupees from them and promising them that he would perform rituals that would bring good luck and riches to them. As time passed and he won their trust, he started taking larger amounts from them, promising more and more benefits to them each time. Soon, the Vhanmores were borrowing money from the people in their social circle so that they could keep paying increasingly larger amounts to Bagwan. The Vhanmores were aware that they would incur heavy interest on the loans they were taking, but Bagwan assured them that his 'rituals' would help them repay the loan as well as let them live a life of luxury.
"As per our investigations so far, the Vhanmores borrowed around Rs 60 lakhs from various people and gave it to Bagwan over a period of two years," Lohiya said.
The police are now focusing on gathering as much evidence as possible against Bagwan and Survase, so that a watertight case can be presented against them. Samples of a tea found in a pot in the Vhanmore residence have already been sent for forensic analysis, and the police are also trying to find out what poison was used and where Bagwan got it from, officials said.